3DMark 11: Nvidia vs AMD

By on December 8, 2010
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GTX580 vs GTX570 vs GTX480 vs HD6870 vs HD6850 vs HD5870

Futuremark’s 3DMark software has been the core of graphics card benchmarking since the last 12 years. Every time a new generation of 3D cards come out, or a new version of 3DMark comes out, every PC enthusiasts starting burning their CPUs and GPUs trying to get the highest score possible. Some go to extreme lengths just to say ‘mine is bigger than yours’, but such is the nature of the beast.

Now, almost two and a half years later, Futuremark releases the latest generation of their benchmark software, called 3DMark 11. Smartly named, because, you know, it’s a DirectX 11 based test which also happens to be just in time for 2011!

On to the actual benchmark itself, it was about time Futuremark released a DX11 version of 3DMark since there aren’t many games on the market, save Metro 2033, that stress test the current and next generation of DirectX11 cards from Nvidia and AMD. The only other benchmark left was Unigine’s Heaven v2.1 which in itself is a great benchmark, but it’s more skewed towards tessellation testing.

So what 3DMark 11 focuses on, apart from tessellation, is depth of field, volumetric lightning and post processing effects; all of which are staples of DirectX 11. Apart from new visuals, Futuremark is using Bullet Physics instead of Nvidia’s PhysX (previously AGEIA PhysX) this time around as it’s an open source code based on C++. The idea being that it doesn’t provide a more favourable score towards Nvidia’s cards as was the case with 3DMark Vantage.

Starting off with 3DMark 11, we take a look at the overall interface first. Depending upon which version you’ve got (Basic/Advanced/Professional) the main window will show you tabs for Basic, Advanced and/or Professional, followed by Results and Help. We only have the Advanced version which costs $19.99 allowing us to customize the test completely with different resolutions and varying levels of effects and settings that can be enabled/disable and increased/decreased.

Running 3DMark 11 is a fairly straightforward process, where you can run the benchmarks in three different configurations depending on how powerful your system is and how badly you want to kill it much you want to stress test it.

Three benchmarks comprise 3DMark 11, all of which are drawn using DirectX 11 with varying degrees of effects working in any one test. There are no synthetic tests, so there’s no more room for error or second guessing the real-world capabilities of your 3D card anymore.

3DMark 11 contains a demo mode which basically runs the two graphics based tests with different sweeping camera angles and a pleasant soundtrack. Coming back to the tests, the first four tests focus on various post processing effects, volumetric lighting, depth of field and tessellation. The last two tests are Physics based, using all the cores of your CPU as well as DirectCompute so that parallel processing shaders and other effects are processed by the GPU instead of CPU.

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From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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